Saturday, 28 February 2009

The Cleansing Properties of Mud!

We've been enjoying longer days here in Scotland. It's made a world a difference in our afternoons and evenings. Last night it was light enough to play outside until 6:15 pm and our boys made every minute count.

Like the three little pigs. They found a muddy patch in the garden and they entertained themselves for 2 hours. Digging, mixing, throwing, and bathing in it!

Boy do I miss my Texas Size Laundry Room!

Fun, fun, fun.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

The Loo

"Charlie, if you could choose, would you choose to live in a mansion or a cabin?" said Christopher.

"Mansion" replied Charlie.

"Not me. I'd choose a cabin becuase you could get lost in the mansion trying to find the toilet. And if you were in a hurry and you really needed to go, you'd be in trouble!" said Christopher.

Good point.

(all this overheard from my seat here at the computer)

Thinking ahead that one! Thinking ahead.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

We're Moving......

Down the street!

Remember in October when we were moving to that chocolate box cottage that didn't quite pan out?? And we were devastated. I kept trying to remind myself that everything is according to God's timing and everything happens for a reason.

Sometimes, I have a harder time remembering this than others.

Anyway, we've continued to look for a house that ticked a few more boxes on our wish list and guess what? The one at the end of our street, on the corner, that we pass every single day, multiple times, just became available. It has a garage, a driveway, a few more rooms, a second refrigerator and a laundry room. It is an old Victorian like our current house but instead of half of a house, it's the whole house. It's Texas sized and we couldn't be more excited!

We take possession March 1st and the movers come on March 4th. We are all thrilled and I'll keep you posted over the next couple of weeks. I keep saying I need to be packing or need to be making a list and crossing things off but the movers are doing everything for us. So all I need to do is RELAX. Yea right. Just seems so weird since our last move was one that was a little further away and a little more challenging to organize!

God is good, all the time!

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Nicol Winter Olympics

Our family will never be able to watch the Winter Olympics again without an intense interest in a few of the sports.

Bobsleigh, Luge and Skeleton.......and ski jumping......
It's winter holiday here in Scotland and we went to Austria for a little adrenaline junkie fun and a little skiing. Last fall, I attended a charity luncheon when low and behold, an "Olympic Bobsleigh Weekend" was one of the live auction items. I really don't know what struck me that day, but it was going to be mine! The description sounded right up our alley....."the Formula One of winter sports......once in a lifetime experience....." And my cheerful friends were all in to boost the excitement to win the bid.

I bought the event and then gave it to Scott for Christmas. Boy was he surprised! I was feeling a little buyers remorse, wondering what I'd gotten myself into! Anyway, I managed to book the flights and extend the weekend to a week for a few days skiing too.
Graham Richardson is an ex-Great Britain Bobsleigh Driver and now Olympic Bobsleigh Coach. He currently coaches the Dutch team and a few years ago he started IceRush as a side business to give people the opportunity to experience the sport first hand. Graham and his brother Ian (the brake man) went out of their way to accommodate our family over the weekend and we all had a blast.

We stayed in a wonderful family run Austrian hotel where Graham and his team often stay when they are training. It was terrific and one that we never would have found on our own. There were 2 other pairs of charity auction bobsleighers in attendance and we enjoyed our meals together. The boys were very tolerant of all of the adult conversations and lingering meals and the adults were extremely tolerant and interactive with our 3 boys! 4 and 5 course meals in true European style are not really suited to 7 and 4 year olds; but they were total troopers.

We arrived on Friday, played outside in the snow and then enjoyed dinner with the group. Saturday morning after breakfast, we all loaded into the vans and headed to the track. Graham, his brother Ian and Ian's wife Dil, educated us all on the particulars of Bobsleighing. We learned about the sleighs, the track and the nuances of the sport. We walked the track from bottom to top all while Graham explained the sport. That morning, a local Austrian Luge and Skeleton Club was having an event so we were able to see these young athletes (Ethan's age) perform these exciting sports. It's crazy fast and Ethan asked multiple times if we could move to Austria!

Then our time came to get in the sleighs and give it a go. We of course did not manage the true running start but climbed in and were pushed off to start our one minute of fun! Each pair raced 2 times and tried each sleigh and driver/brakeman pair. (Graham had 2 other athletes come and help him for the day.) On the first run, I was sitting in the third position and I had a hard time seeing around Scott. When you can't see the track, it's hard to anticipate the turns and therefore your head bumps the side of the sleigh. Also, in the biggest turn the G-Force is so strong that it was impossible for me to hold my head up in that position. Strangest feeling. Then on the second run, Scott traded places with me and I was able to manage the head thing a little more. It's one minute. ONE MINUTE. It was crazy, fun and terrifying, all at the same time!

One of our fellow participants, Mark, held his video camera during one of his runs and it will give you a little more insight....his description...."utter maddness!!"
(wish I knew how to embed the link...)

After everyone was finished, we went back to the hotel for lunch and then most of us went tobogganing. Graham and Ian took turns driving us up to the start of the run and we raced and raced all afternoon. The boys had an absolute blast! and the grown-ups too! One of the other participants challenged Ethan to multiple races and you should have heard the banter! Hilarious! It's like we were all 10.

Saturday night, Graham arranged a terrific dinner at the hotel with t-shirts and awards for all of the participants and we stayed up super late chatting with the other guys. Everyone went their separate ways Sunday morning.
Graham had arranged for us to move to another hotel closer to the ski mountain that morning so Ian and Dil, picked us up and transported us to our new digs. He'd arranged the family apartment in this hotel which was so fantastic. I think is was originally the owner or manager's apartment on property because it was three rooms of retro wonderfulness! No standard hotel furniture but all mid 50's and 60's style furniture and light fixtures in this great little spot away from all of the other hotel residents! We all loved it! Charlie asked to move there!

Sunday afternoon, we took the tram from Igls to Innsbruck through the mountains to check out the Olympic Ski Jump. Amazing. Can't believe people really do this. We walked the stadium and jump area and gained perspective on the size and scale of this event. We enjoyed lunch at the restaurant there looking over the town of Innsbruck and then headed back to our hotel. Ian and Dil were still there so we had dinner with them Sunday night.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, we skied and tobogganed to our hearts content. We had 2 sunny days and one day of a foot of snowfall. It was beautiful and we all loved this holiday! Scott and I said multiple times that having Graham's connections made all of the difference for us to explore this part of Austria and made our time that much more enjoyable! Thanks to Graham. Check out his website if you are in need for some speed!

Guess what these guys are doing? Cracking a whip everytime someone passes them by to ward off the evil spirits. Just something they do in Igls on a Sunday morning??? What?? You could hear the whip blocks away.......Just a little bonus picture for you!

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Buses, Taxis and Ten Year Olds

If someone had told me 3 years ago that I would allow my first born son to ride public transportation in a BIG CITY with his pals, I would have said they were CRAZY.

Fast forward to my first visit to Glasgow in August 2007. Scott and I learned that many children rode the city bus (city being the important word here people, NOT big yellow school bus) and even taxis to school. On their own. With their pals. Without their parents.

Now, it's not that I don't trust my children, but I'm not sure I trust the world YET!

Fast forward again to the beginning of this school year. Ethan has asked and asked for a mobile phone. All of his friends have them. He's the ONLY 10 year old in Glasgow without one! We have continued to remind him that (1) he is 10 and that in our opinion, he's too young for a mobile phone (2) school rules say he's not allowed to have one in the classrooms/on the playground (3) that he is picked up and dropped off at school EVERYDAY by his parents and that when he rides public transportation to school, we'll consider it.

This leads me to the next fast forward. After the Christmas holidays, Ethan started asking Scott and I separately if he could ride the city bus home from school. He's just itching for a little more freedom. (either that or he is DESPERATE for a mobile phone!) He gets out of school 40 minutes later than his brothers and he noticed that would save me having to wait around for him. (manipul..............I mean thoughtful little fellow isn't he!) Our house is one block from the main road and 1 1/2 miles down the main road from our house is the school. The bus is on a direct route and he said this was "easy peasy and he could handle it. "

My mind was telling me he's right and my heart was saying, NOT YET! I'M NOT READY!

Thankfully, we found a compromise that we could all agree on. On Thursdays, Charlie has swim and tennis lessons right after school which means that in order for me to get him there on time, Ethan has to find another ride to the gym. So after the Christmas holidays, Ethan started riding the city bus with a friend one year older than him. Sebastian has been riding the bus all year from school to the gym a few days a week as his little brother also has tennis lessons at the gym. Ethan meets Sebastian when the school day finishes and they walk together one block to the bus stop. Then they ride the bus to our gym (just 1/2 mile from our house). Ethan has loved it. And I am easing into it. Most of the patrons on the bus at 4pm are students headed home from school. So I hold my breath, and I say extra prayers of protection and try not to over think it! This is a big city people!

Ethan has also started taking taxis on Tuesdays from school to squash practice. The school arranges taxis and one senior school pupil is required to ride in each taxi. He LOVES it. Oh the freedom! He seems to love the squash too but I think it helps that the transportation is cool! (black cabs like London!) Cabbies have all been through criminal checks before they are allowed to pick up from school. So that's a relief!

Next on our list for Ethan's excitement....a trip to the mobile phone store! Little booger.............

Friday, 6 February 2009

The Queen's English

Well, I'm just calling it that.......

I've had a few conversations this week about what it must feel like to be Christopher, learning how to read in Scotland. You see, when we left Dallas, Christopher was on the cusp of reading. He worked so hard his pre-school year with Mrs. Bierfeld and he was jumping into reading in Kindergarten.

Then we ripped him out of his comfortable little world and threw him into a school where the letters are not called their names but the sounds they make. What? Not the sing-songy familiar ABCDE......but, Ahh, Bay, Say (C), Duh, get the picture. Try spelling his name that way. Tedious isn't it?? (Once the children learn how to read here, then the letters are called their names.)

So, Christopher has been plugging along for the last 18 months, basically starting from scratch again with letter sounds and blends and then onto reading. In the Queen's English. Some of the words are new to us, some are spelled differently and some just sound completely different. Must be overwhelming. Like processing a foreign language in your head.

One day last week, while driving in the car, Christopher and Ethan had a discussion about the correct pronunciation of VASE. Christopher of course was saying vase (with a short vowel) and Ethan was saying vase (with a long vowel). They were arguing about which one is correct. What's interesting to me is not which one is "correct", but that Christopher has learned the pronunciation from Scotland and is standing by it! And that to him, this is the correct way to say it. And this is just one example. There's vitamin (short vs long vowel), schedule (can't even begin to say that one), tomato, and many more.

I don't know why it has taken me so long to realize the challenge that he has faced. We knew that it was hard and that he was having a time, but golly! Everything is different for all of us but when it is something as basic as letters, that takes the cake. Christopher has been a trooper and continues to progress in his reading everyday. But in the beginning, I can only imagine what his brain was going through! And I love that to him, the correct pronunciation of words will be as he remembers them from this dear green place. And Charlie too. (that little booger goes to Kindergarten this fall and will be pre-reading shortly thereafter!) Ethan has filled the gap most times because he remembers things as he learned them in school in Texas and is able to translate them for us all as we learn them differently here.

So three cheers for Christopher and his new native tongue! Clearly, I'm still learning........

Monday, 2 February 2009

Winter Wonderland!

Look at what happended last night! The boys were so excited to wake to this fluffy white snow this morning!

They're off to school and the snow is really coming down now so should make for a fun, cold afternoon!
Angus is attacking the windows thinking he can catch the flakes!
Debating skipping school tomorrow for a wee trip to the mountains (only 1 1/2 hours away!).